I am so honored to be an early childhood educator and this year is a particularly special year for me. I made the move to our school’s older preschool room and will be teaching this group of children for the second time (since their toddlerhood!). All of the fun and excitement of beginning fresh with a new year has been exponentially increased by having so many familiar faces – children and parents. In my work, I am reminded countlessly throughout each day how lucky I am to do what I do. I originally wanted to write a lengthy (read: lengthier) piece about the similarities of teaching yoga and teaching young children, but this felt much more appropriate today. Teaching such young children is challenging, incredibly fun work, and it is definitely a two-way street. ❤
Life wisdom from people who only sort of know what day it is? Here it is:
Move Fast – The origin of this one is fairly obvious. Little people are always moving, always exploring. To keep up with them, to keep them engaged in learning, and to keep them safe, we have to move with them. Life is far too short for any of us to stay in one place for too long. Go out, explore and play, be silly, take risks. Think outside the sandbox. The world is still a big place when you’ve grown up.
Trust Your Intuition – Children have incredible intuition. They can tell if a person is a threat, phony, kind-hearted, and more. They can tell if an adult is putting on airs or talking down to them. Somewhere along the way, we lose touch with this gift. In modern society, we have to work harder to maintain that connection to both our deepest inner self and the world around us. The busyness, the obligations, the perceptions of what “should be” all cloud our intuition and it takes practice to dig through to reach it again.
Everything is Awesome! Until It’s Not. But Then It is Again! – The rollercoaster of emotions of young children is one scary ride. One minute you’re jumping, practically flying, buoyantly bouncing from one cut tree to the next, sticking every landing like an Olympic pro – feeling giddy and accomplished. The next minute, inexplicably, you’re down for the count with tree dirt speckling your bleeding shin. It came as a shock, it wasn’t that bad, and off you go again. Whether external or internal, young children have incredible coping skills and resiliency. I am in infinite awe of how they go and grow through their days without looking back, always hungry for more.
Ask Questions – My most recent line of preschool questioning came from a few 3-year olds. It was a hot summer day and I had a sleeveless top, with my tattooed shoulder exposed. After noticing the tattoo, checking out its texture, one child asked me if my tattoo would always be on me. Yes, I explained, the ink was under my skin and, even when I was a very old grandma, it would still be there. They got a little giggle out of this. The next question? “When you die, will it still be there?” “Yes, when I die, it will still be there.” That was enough information for them and they moved on from the topic. I was amused, but mostly impressed, by the connections that these young people made. The concepts of permanence and of death can be overwhelming, yet to these children, it was so simple. They are comfortable enough with me to know that their questions will always be answered, even if the answer is “I don’t know” or “Let’s find out.” So often we overthink things, we keep our wondering to ourselves, we jump to conclusions about the unknown or we fear discomfort. Children are so matter-of-fact and clear: “What is that red thing on your face?” “It’s a pimple.” Moving on. We are naturally curious creatures and our inquisitiveness and exploration offer us endless opportunity to know, to grow, to cope, and to revel in awe at all of the things we don’t yet know. What do you want to know?
Ask for Help – I want to do it myself! But sometimes, I just can’t. Simon & Garfunkel, please stop spreading mistruths – no one can be a rock, or an island. Children are so hasty to both announce their independence and to collapse into infantile helplessness. We are a species that relies on community and connection. We can’t do it alone. Ask for help with the things you can’t do. And those things you can do but JUST DON’T WANNA? It’s ok to ask for help with those at times, too. As Ram Dass says, “We are all just walking each other home”.
Call for Backup – Picture it: a bathroom, with tiny toilets, tiny sinks, froggy potties – it looks adorable and it is filled with a group of adorable toddlers, most of whom are only on the brink of toilet training success. Anything can happen – and it always does. You wave down any passerby to send along a message back to camp that says S.O.S. You’re so thankful you have an extra sweater in the car. Don’t be too proud to call for backup. A second set of eyes on your current sticky situation can be a lifesaver. 😉
We’re All Afraid of the Dark – Fear of the dark, of the unknown, the spooky sounds and blurry black shapes – it’s a fairly universal uneasiness at best. We all have different reasons for fearing the dark. As we grow out of imagining what monsters (or, in my case, real bears and coyotes), we grow into fearing a different kind of darkness. Loneliness, rejection, failure, death of loved ones and of ourselves – just to name a cheery few. Know that we’re all there, afraid in some way. Let us be each other’s light, each other’s strength, and pull one another out of the darkness. Everything will be alright.
Hug Your Parents. Cling Tightly. – Each morning brings a new day, and new feelings. It’s hard to balance time with our loved ones with time spent working and doing. The days roll together so quickly, though. From September to August, we adults can all step back and marvel at how quickly time passed this school year. Life is so, so fast. Whether you’re 2, or 102, hug your parents whenever you can, as tightly as you can.
There are a Billion Uses for a Block – Alright, this is slightly inapplicable to adult life, but how cool is it that a block is so limitless. A phone, a mail truck, a spotty horse, a house in the mountains, a boat engine, a chocolate and chicken sandwich… If you’ve never played blocks with a 4-year old, 10 out of 10 preschool teachers recommend. Five Stars. Seek out the limitlessness.
It’s All About the Little Things – This one right here? This is my lifeblood. I always joke to colleagues that I relate far too well to young children. I remember being in preschool, and how I felt, how I spent my time. This ability to put myself in their shoes has carried me a long way, but it isn’t the main reason for my accomplishments. I devote full credit to my love and appreciation for The Little Things – it has helped me through tough times, through slow times, through unsure and boring times, and through some of the sunniest, silliest times. I can extend a walk with young children by doubling, tripling the time spent en route as we drink in the sights and sounds, mulling over great theories on where that squirrel is going and what might the mail carrier do when he goes home. Awareness of and gratitude for these Little Things grow into a greater appreciation for all things and a rich, more dynamic life of contentment. Experience life with purpose, with wonder, and with joy.